Four years on from her debut of crunchy and sophisticated coming-of-age indie rock, EERA (Anna Lena Bruland to her mum) returns with a follow-up album that shows all good signs of natural progression. Accordingly, there’s an expanded sound palette and grander production, more focussed songwriting, and greater risk-taking in composition and arrangement, all of which contributes to a series of successes interspersed with occasional stumbles.
The best is on the album’s first side, with the disquieting, uneasy drive of ‘Falling Between The Ice’ reminiscent of how late-period Radiohead write their best rock music, and motorik lead single ‘The Ladder’, with its soaring fuzz and spiralling chord progressions, the sort of track you long to hear played very loud and very heavy and very live somewhere cavernous. ‘My Muse’, too, is a lovely display of Bruland’s burgeoning confidence, starting off knotty and fractured before coalescing with an enjoyable click into a Depeche Mode-ish synth swagger. There are moments where that same confidence perhaps spills into over-experimentation – ‘This City’ gives the impression of EERA not fully knowing what she wants her music to sound like – but thankfully these are fleeting and by no means fatal to a record that feels refreshingly open to possibility.
In the present hyper-accelerated cycle of hype-release-repeat, it’s not uncommon for bands to sound burnt out by the time they reach their second album, or like they’ve run out of ideas. That EERA is resisting that tendency so elegantly here, and instead developing – albeit incrementally – from a satisfying foundation for album two, is testament not just to her musicianship but also her creative tenacity. It leaves Speak feeling like not just an interesting document of a troubling time in itself, but also like a promise of (even) greater things to come.
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